“When I was an entrepreneur myself, I found it very difficult to find someone who could give me advice on my idea, someone who could mentor me and tell me if my idea was good enough to get me an investment. But, it is not just about raising money, it is more about what I need to do once I get that money – what kind of team do I need to recruit, how do I raise my barrier to entry, a lot of people think they know what barrier to entry means, but they actually don’t, they think they know what go-to market means, but they don’t, they think they know how to set up a company or the corporate governance, but they actually don’t. They might have a great idea, but they need a lot of help with this kind of stuff, and they find it hard to raise capital because they find it hard to answer these kind of questions,” says Paul Shoker, Founder, VentureFund.
It was primarily for this reason, he says, that he wanted to set up VentureFund, a one-stop shop that provides this type of information to entrepreneurs. Secondly, his perspective altered. He became an investor, and joined a number of angel networks. At this juncture, he wasn’t getting the kind of deal flow that he had expected. He would join the club, and then spend Saturday evenings at the investor forums. At these forums, he observed the cracks and crevices of the system. The forums didn’t give him the quality deal flow that he was looking for. This triggered in him an idea to build an ecosystem to address these problems. And, that led to the founding of VentureFund.
YourStory interviewed Paul, and got to know about many interesting facts from him.
YS: The VentureFund founding team (co-founders include the likes of Rajan Anandan, MD, Google India) is extremely well accomplished. How did all of you get-together?
Paul: A question I ask many entrepreneurs, when they come to me, is that, “who is your team?”. I believe it is the team that makes all the difference. So I also realized that for VentureFund, I needed a team that can help me with a significant amount of barrier to entry. For the team, I looked into my network and talked to some of the people about the idea’s potential and scale, and asked them if they would participate in this idea, and that is how the team was formed.
YS: If you had to look back at your 27 years of starting, running, and mentoring many companies, what would you list as your most significant learnings?
Paul: There are three primary learnings that I derived from all these years: First, acknowledging the fact that you are going to make mistakes, second, be extremely diligent in whatever you do which means you really need to think it through, and third, I think it is really about the execution!
YS: What according to you are the major challenges that Indian startups face while trying to scale?
Paul: I think the biggest challenge is finding a one-stop shop that provides an ecosystem of mentoring and facilitates funding either through incubation, either through an angel, either through private equity or VCs. And, VentureFund is going to help fill that gap.
YS: Many entrepreneurs complain about the quality of investors and mentors in India, what are your thoughts on this?
Paul: There are many good people. The question is most of the entrepreneurs become extremely defensive and emotional when a mentor or an investor tries to explain to them that they haven’t really thought it through. Also, many entrepreneurs here are not thinking big, there are some that are thinking big, but you have to think “massive” today. So, I think there are quality mentors, but I think the mentors do get frustrated where you end up in these kinds of situations.